1 November 2005

Food for Thought

Unlock the stairways and step into metabolic fitness
Exercise and activity speed up your metabolic rate (increasing the amount of energy you use) which helps you to balance your food intake and control your weight. Exercise and activity also make your muscles more sensitive to insulin and increase the amount of fat you burn. Best of all, the effect of exercise doesn’t end when you stop moving. People who exercise have higher metabolic rates and their bodies burn more kilojoules per minute even when they are asleep!

But you don’t have to run a marathon or join a gym to achieve ‘metabolic fitness’. Seemingly small actions add up to big health benefits that in the long run in conjunction with a low GI diet can reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

It might not feel as if occasionally climbing a flight of stairs instead of taking the lift makes a difference. But it does. A recent study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2005; 39: 590–593) found that a group of healthy (but sedentary) 19-year-old female office workers who took just two minutes to climb the 199-step stairway in their office building with increasing frequency over an eight week period achieved a 17 per cent increase in aerobic capacity and an 8 per cent decrease in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. ‘Such exercise can easily be incorporated into the working day,’ says lead author, Prof Colin Boreham, Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Ulster, ‘and should be promoted by public health guidelines.’

Don’t despair if the stairways in your office building or apartment block are locked and alarmed and you have to take the lift. ‘Researchers have found that exercise of moderate duration and intensity—including walking—is associated with reduced risk of disease. While brisk walking is best, even slow walkers benefit! Ideally you should accumulate 30 minutes or more on most days of the week. The good news is you can do it in two 15-minute sessions or six 5-minute sessions. It doesn’t matter … To make a real difference to your health and energy, however, physical activity has to be regular and some of it needs to be aerobic. But every little bit counts—and, best of all, any you do that’s more than you are currently doing, is a step in the right direction,’ says Prof Jennie Brand-Miller in Low GI Eating Made Easy.

Photo: Ian Hofstetter, The Low GI Diet Cookbook